Your View: Guest Column - Are fracking’s pluses worth potential risk?

Jul. 06, 2014 @ 02:37 AM

BY PHIL SLOAN

    Since the bills have been passed and signed by Gov. McCrory authorizing rules to be established and the process known as "fracking" to begin, I hope that we North Carolinians proceed from here with EXTREME caution.  We've been down this road several times before and have managed to get it wrong more often than right.  Three instances come to mind: the Camp Lejeune poisoned water fiasco, the Asheville CTS site (toxic industrial solvents in local springs, HPE 6/26/14), and the infamous Duke Power coal ash sites across our state.
    The majority of the media wants to emphasize that Pat McCrory worked for and accepted campaign contributions from Duke Power (both true), but they usually fail to mention that from 1894 until 2010 (except for two terms in the 1990s when the GOP controlled the House) both chambers of the N.C. Legislature had Democratic majorities and that during that same 116 years, there were only two Republican governors (Holshouser and Martin).  The point being that the aforementioned environmental disasters were not overseen by those evil, rascally Republicans, but by those Democratic champions of the environment.
    But fracking is not a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal issue; it's a common sense issue.  Basically, fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water and some secret proprietary chemicals deep into the Earth to force natural gas out of certain rock formations into underground areas where they can be successfully pumped to the surface and sold.
    My first question is "where is all of that water that's being injected going to come from?"  Are they going to pump it out of existing aquifers (the water table, relied on by many rural residents for their water supply) or get it from heavy diversion of surface streams?
    The second question is "If it occurs, how do you clean up an environmental disaster that's hundreds or thousands of feet underground and who will pay for it?"  The answers are "nobody knows" and "probably the taxpayers" … both unacceptable!
     The front page of the "Business" section of the 6/15/14 HPE headlined that 40 percent of oil and gas wells aren't being inspected by the federal government, so a substantial number of these fracking wells will be self-policed by the industry itself, not exactly a comforting scenario for those of us who live in the real world.  How is the public to be guaranteed that we won't be left holding the bag by a company declaring bankruptcy and walking away from an environmental nightmare?
     The economics of fracking don't even look all that good; most printed estimates of permanent job creation are between 500 and 2,000 jobs statewide (or an average of 5 to 20 per county), hardly enough to solve any significant part of the unemployment problem.  Natural gas prices are also near record lows right now, so drilling in the near term won't maximize any perceived economic benefit.
     I strongly encourage whichever party is in charge these next few years to proceed very slowly, put in extremely strict drilling restrictions, have the companies heavily bonded, and budget the necessary funds to ensure adequate oversight of this risky procedure.  I'm a lifelong conservative, but I think I can speak for most North Carolinians (especially those with children and grandchildren) when I say that I'm certainly in favor of American energy independence, but not if it comes at the expense of clean drinking water for future generations!

Phil Sloan lives in Davidson County. 
  

YOUR VIEW POLLS

Gov. McCrory has signed into law a bill that will allow permits for gas drilling using the fracking method as early as next spring. What’s your view? In 35 words or less (no name, address required), email your thoughts to letterbox@hpe.com or go to hpe.com under Opinion and post a comment.